By Kellie Rongo
As much as we love to train hard and heavy day in and day out, it is easy to forget the benefits of a deload week and how important it really is in order to keep progressing and getting the gains we’re all here for.
What does “deload” or “deload week” mean?
A deload is a period of time, usually 4-7 days, that is worked into your training regime where training frequency, intensity and weights lifted are lowered substantially to help you and your body adapt and recover properly.
Typically this will be every 6-10 weeks, depending on what type of training you’re doing. This does not mean you have to sit your ass on the couch for a week eating potato chips and drinking beer; quite frankly, that’s the last thing we want you to do during a deload. Staying active is super important during these times. Of course, if your body is telling to you be lazy as hell for a day, have at it. Those days are good sometimes, too, but you shouldn’t need them all too often.
Side note: Taking a few days off from the gym every 6-10 weeks will NOT make you weaker. You will not wither away to nothing like you may feel/think. I promise.
With all of that being said, listen up…
No Recovery = No Adapting = Performance Decline. Go back and read that again. 100% truth.
You can not train at 80-90% of your max effort like we have been for the last 8 weeks and still reap the max benefits of your training program. If you think about it, it makes total sense. We train hard using what is called the overload principle so that we can get these big gains, but each time we train that hard, we have to remember that we are intentionally putting stress on our body so that we can get stronger/faster/whatever, which will inevitably cause fatigue.
If you do not recover from this fatigue properly, you will not be lifting as heavy as you want to be during your daily training, which totally defeats the purpose. After all, the goal is to continuously get better at whatever you’re working on and we certainly don’t want to regress. But really, all of this stuff mentioned is OK; we want to work hard enough to be tired, we want our muscles and even our minds to be tired, we just have to take the time to allow our body to adapt to this all this stress we are putting on it.
Benefits of deload recovery periods include…
Increased motivation to train hard again! This is a big deal so I made it #1. Personally, if I take a few days off from the gym or train light for a few days, I am BEYOND ready to train hard again after that. I know this is the case for most of you, too. You feel hungry again. There is nothing like resting up, allowing yourself to kind of crave that hard training again, and coming back to crush it.
You SHOULD be and probably will be stronger after a deload period. If you do this every 6-10 weeks, you will train harder during those weeks, recover well after, and your “baseline” should be higher than when you started. (A good example of this is when we finish a cycle at LOD, take a few lighter training days + a weekend, then come back for our first assessments for the next cycle and typically feel strong, motivated, and ready to kill the next 6-8 weeks of work.)
Injury risk goes down. I’m sure with how many times I’ve said recover and adapt in this post, you already get the point of this one. If you’re extremely fatigued, you probably won’t move as well, form may break down, muscles, tendons, ligaments, other supportive tissues, etc. will be taking a beating. This means your chances of getting hurt go up. Injuries suck, so we want to do the best we can to prevent them.
Give yourself a mental break every so often. Take a breather. Change up your day in, day out routine a little. It’s just good for the soul. :)
Preventing body or mind burnout- You never want to allow yourself to get to the point of burnout where you’re feeling like crap, not even wanting to hit the gym, feeling unmotivated, and not performing well in the gym and maybe in other parts of your life, too. If you’ve never felt this, that’s good. Eventually you’ll get there if you have the “I don’t take breaks from the gym” attitude.
I’m sure there’s a longer list of benefits but these are some very important ones. Of course, everyone’s needs for a break in training are different, but always remember to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Small/nagging injuries, lack of motivation and not hitting the numbers you’re supposed to hit are all good signs that it’s time to deload. Manage your training well so you can get the maximum benefits from all the hard work you put in!